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The Danger of Climate Extremism

The climate activist group Climate Defiance created a viral moment recently when they ambushed U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) at Harvard where they called him a “sick @@ck, barbaric murderer” and “hideous fiend” who “torches humanity and laughs.”  

The group boasted they “humiliated” Manchin in front of “Harvard elites.” Of course, manufacturing a moment for cameras in the United States is hardly as courageous as, say, confronting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing or Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. After all, if the fate of humanity is at stake, why should activists do anything less than go after world-class polluters and murderers in their capitals? 

>>>READ: The Growing Folly of ‘Big Oil’ Demonization

In normal times, the immoderate antics of fringe protestors would be accepted as a sign of our vitality. The fact that people feel free to be performative jackasses in the United States is the point. Dealing with disruptive protestors is the price of pluralism and the cost of doing business in a free and open society. It’s all a sign of our strength, right? 

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But these are not normal times. As climate extremists ramped up their theatrics and rhetoric in Europe, they discovered they could move the needle and influence policy. As we’ve often described, as Europe, and especially Germany, went “green” and powered down their nuclear plants and domestic fossil fuel production their true aim was not to lower emissions as much as it was to placate noisy activists. The big winner in this shell game was Russian President Vladimir Putin who responded to Europe’s weakness and strategic self-harm by invading Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, climate extremists in the United States, who have been taking careful notes on Europe, have been emboldened by Biden’s foolish pause on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects as well as his demagogic rhetoric which seemed to be aimed at appeasing them. 

>>>READ: In Climate Policy, Extremism Breeds Extremism

When it comes to confronting extremism and illiberalism, I believe in the clean up your own yard first principle. That means if you want to be able to credibly call out the extremism on the other side, you first must examine the extremism on your side. Partisans start by trying to reform the other side, but leaders start by reforming their side. That’s why I refuse to bend the knee to Trump and am very much at peace being excommunicated from MAGA due to my support for Nikki Haley. 

So, I appeal to my friends on the left. Don’t dismiss these antics as a passing fad from an oddball fringe but as a canary in a cultural coal mine. Fringe groups that revile American pluralism and our tradition of principled compromise are fueled by bitterness, envy, and the false hope that one day when their fringe faction takes over, they can purge the public square of dissent. These movements emit division, despair, and destruction and create a political climate that nurtures extremism on all sides.   

Our founders saw this coming which is why Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 65, “If mankind were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection, society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a desert.”

If anyone seems intent on turning the world into a desert, it isn’t Manchin but extremists who are committed to sabotaging any imperfect, yet durable, solution.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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